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Also known as DMLS, Direct Metal Laser Sintering is a manufacturing method where technicians create metal parts from 3D CAD data without the need for any cumbersome tooling.
DMLS makes use of several alloy and metal materials – including cobalt chrome, stainless steel, and Inconel – to create reliable and sturdy prototypes and parts. Companies and manufacturers of functional metal prototypes will have a lot of use for this manufacturing method. It has also found some essential purpose in making high-use machine parts and some other high-temperature applications.
Technicians start with DMLS the same way they do with other layer additive manufacturing processes. A program takes the 3D CAD data and uses math to slice it into various 2D cross-sections. Each of the sections acts as a blueprint showing the DMLS machine where to sinter the metal material.
Then, the data is transferred to the DMLS equipment. There’s a recorder assembly that pushes powdered material from the powder supply to make a stable uniform layer over the base plate. A laser draws a 2D cross-section on the surface of the build material, fusing, and eating the entire thing.
Upon the completion of one layer, the base plate is lowered enough to make some room for the additional layer over it. Then, more material is raised from the cartridge and recoated on the previously-sintered layer.
At this point, the DMLS machine will keep sintering each layer on another. It mainly builds from the bottom to the top. As each part gets made, it’s also essential to add support layers to provide some level of additional strength to features and other surfaces.
Then, the completed part is removed from the base plate and treated with an age-hardening heat process to improve the part’s hardness. This is also the stage where support structures are removed.
Manufacturers have several polishing and surface removal options available to them.
Some of the most popular DMLS applications include manufacturing and tools units, dental components, aerospace parts, surgical implants, and much more.